Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

To obtain kit materials, visit our online store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 learners.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit.  Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Having a new stepsister isn’t always as much fun as Javier thought it would be. When little Luisa tries to follow him across the bridge to the play fort he built on an island near his Texas home, she falls off into the water. Now Javier’s mother says they’ll have to take the bridge down and won’t be able to go to the fort. Javi realizes that if he can engineer a safer bridge, he might be able to convince his parents to keep it. With help from his cousins—and some inspiration from Luisa—Javi comes up with a new design. Will it pass inspection with his stepfather Joe, who’s a real civil engineer?

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Bridges Storybook / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L1

Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Ann using to introduce key ideas from the storybook before she begins reading?

Ann activates students' prior knowledge by asking about storybook topics and also has students analyze the first illustration in the book.

  • First, Ann introduces the main character and field of engineering (civil) focused on in the book. She asks students about why bridges are important and where they are used. Students bring up their personal experiences with bridges (riding their bikes over them and seeing a bridge at the local Boys and Girls Club). (0:56)
  • Ann has students look at the first illustration in the storybook and comment on whether they think the bridge is a "good bridge." Students notice that it doesn’t look stable, which sets them up well for the engineering challenge in the unit. (1:50)


Ann chose to complete the Engineering Design Process worksheet as a whole class. In what ways do you notice Ann reinforcing the steps of the EDP with students as they complete the worksheet?

When the answer is not immediately apparent to the group, Ann does not give them the answer but instead guides them to parts of the storybook where they can find the answer for themselves. 

  • Ann asks about the “Ask” step in a few different ways (“What did he ask about the bridge? What did he ask his cousins?”). Then when a student answers she rephrases the response back to him and models recording of the answer. (8:30)
  • When students have difficulty coming up with examples for the Imagine step, Ann guides them to look back at the text.  (9:20)
  • At the same time Ann is recording student answers on the transparency, students are also recording answers on their own versions of the worksheet. (11:00)
Javier Builds a Bridge / Grade 2 / Derry, NH
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L1

Reflection Questions

Steve has his students watch a “Show Me” tutorial and fill out a Frayer Model to learn vocabulary. What are some advantages of introducing vocabulary using this technique?

By assigning a few words to each group and having them listen to a tutorial at their own pace, Steve is able to become a facilitator of learning, rather than a direct instructor.

  • Having students work in small independent groups actively involves them in their own learning. They practice skills like collaborating and staying on task. (1:49)
  • The Frayer Model encourages students to express their ideas in both writing and pictures. (1:30 and 2:37)
  • Interacting with the netbooks allows students to use technology to learn at their own pace, since they can pause, rewind, and replay Steve’s tutorial. (1:33)
  • The jigsaw technique allows individual students to become experts in a few of the vocabulary words and share their knowledge with others. (2:22)

When teaching the storybook, how does Steve reinforce the reading comprehension standards of the Common Core?

Steve has the students read the text themselves even though they are quite young. He uses several strategies to help them with comprehension.

  • Steve reminds his students to “close read” with a specific purposes in mind. (3:05)
  • Steve encourages his students make predictions about characters in the story when he asks, “What do you think Javier is going to do now?” (3:35)
  • Steve helps students make connections by asking about bridges they have crossed over in their own lives. (4:15)

Students think like civil engineers as they observe how forces affect structures and implement engineering solutions to balance forces and prevent structural failure.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Pushes and Pulls / Grade 2 / Derry, NH
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L2

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way Steve introduces the concept of “force” to his students?

Steve first introduces the term in the context of the storybook, providing the concrete example of weight on a bridge. Then he has students interact with a force themselves and make predictions about how forces will affect a model structure.

  • Steve first uses the bridge in the storybook as an example of force, and then he has students identify Javier’s sister’s weight as a push or a pull on the bridge. (1:06 and 1:32)
  • Next, Steve asks students to think about the things that push or pull on their own school building. (1:45)
  • To help students actually feel pushes and pulls and identify them, Steve challenges them to make index card stand up with one finger. (2:29 and 3:38)
  • Based on these shared experiences, Steve’s students have enough understanding to be able to predict what will happen when force is applied to a model structure. (4:26) 

How does Steve keep his students engaged and involved during whole-group instruction?

Steve uses of a variety of classroom to keep his students interested.

  • When asking about what happened to the bridge, Steve gestures and all his students respond in unison, “It broke!”  (0:55)
  • Steve has the students turn and talk with their groups about the different forces that are acting on the one-story structure. (4:38)
  • After the model structure collapses, Steve invites one of his students to come up and modify the structure to make it stronger. (6:48) 
Pushes and Pulls / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L2

Reflection Questions

Ann’s students have fairly sophisticated discussions throughout the lesson about forces, pushes, and pulls. How do you see her relating these discussions back to things they know and/or will be dealing with in the unit?

Ann gives specific examples of different types of forces and asks students to think about how they might affect bridges or other structures students are familiar with.

  • Ann asks students to think about the force of wind. A student explains that instead of pulling, like gravity, the wind pushes. Students will deal with pushing and pulling forces when they design their bridges. (2:36)
  • Ann asks students to think about the types of forces acting on a bridge. When she asks about piers, students are able to identify that the piers push up on and hold up the bridge. (3:08)
  • When talking about and later testing the one-story structure, students are able to apply vocabulary and talk about why the structure was successful (there was more force pushing up than pushing down, and therefore it did not collapse). (10:20)

When experimenting with the one story structure, Ann has students direct her where to put the weights. What affect do you see this having on the students?

Guiding students to think about where to add the weights helps them to make predictions about what might cause the structure to fail. 

  • When Ann asks students where to put the first weight, students comment on each other’s ideas and organically begin making predictions (it will fall down). Then when she does put on the first weight, students comment on whether their predictions were correct (I knew it, etc.). (8:00)
  • When adding more weight, students continue to make new suggestions and predictions, saying a weight should go on a certain pier or corner because it will balance other weights. (8:20)
  • When Ann later asks for a civil engineering solution to the problem, students are easily able to suggest putting a pier in the middle since they’ve been invested in previous testing. (9:30)

Students perform a controlled test of three types of bridges to see how much weight the bridges can support.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Bridging Understanding (1) / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L3 Part 1

Reflection Questions

At the start of the lesson, Ann asks students what civil engineers need to think about before they start building something. Why is this an important way to start the lesson?

Posing this question allows students to generate their own list of important criteria and constraints to think about when designing their bridges. 

  • We see students listing ideas about structures they’ve gathered from the storybook and Lesson 2: what is holding up the bridge, is it sturdy, how much weight can it hold, etc. Guiding students to create this list helps Ann confirm that students have retained information and assess their thinking. (0:37)
  • The full list of ideas that students come up with results in a set of criteria that they can apply to their own bridge designs. This student-generated list will help students be invested in the testing and scoring process later on. (1:30)

How do you see Ann handling student findings about the strength of different bridge types after the investigation?

Ann relies on students sharing their observations and results about bridge strength, encouraging them to learn from their own findings from testing. 

  • When students suggest that the deep beam bridge is the strongest, Ann asks them to comment on why they think this was the case. They suggest that it was because of the folded accordion structure in the model bridge. (5:00)
  • During her interview, Ann explains she wanted students to see and experiment with the bridges and learn for themselves which was the strongest. She not only allowed them to make changes, but also validated what they saw after making those changes. “They had their own learning experience,” she notes. (6:27)
Bridging Understanding (2) / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L3 Part 2

Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see of Ann’s students beginning to think about how the materials could be used in their bridges?

Students make suggestions about what a material could be used for in their bridge designs, and also discuss how the properties of the material would make it a good choice for that function. 

  • During group work, we see students pointing out how they would use different materials for different bridge parts—one material could be a foundation for the bridge, another a railing, etc. (4:40)
  • As a whole class, students fill out the last column in the properties of materials chart, identifying how each material could be used in a bridge design. This allows students to share ideas across many groups. (5:45)
  • To further emphasize the relationship between material properties and uses, Ann asks students to think about why they would not want to use string as the span of their bridge. Students point out that it would be a bad choice because it might unravel and fall apart. (6:50)
Bridging Understanding / Grade 2 / Derry, NH
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L3

Reflection Questions

Why do you think Steve chose the blueprints used to build the school with his students?

Steve used the school blueprints as a way to reinforce important points and push his students thinking about the work of civil engineers.

  • Referring to the blueprints as “a set of directions that builders use to build the school” highlights the extensive planning that engineers do. (1:06)
  • Reading the names of the different types of engineers that worked on the project reinforces that idea that engineers work together to solve problems. (1:37)
  • By pointing out the walls of the building that support the weight of the school, Steve is hoping his students will make connections to the abutments that support bridges. (1:48)

During this engineering lesson, where do you see students applying their knowledge of science and math?

Through the testing of bridges and analysis of results, students practiced important computational skills and reviewed scientific procedure.

  • By comparing the number of weights each bridge design holds, individual groups of students use mathematical thinking to rank their bridges in terms of strength. (6:13)
  • Steve has groups review and reconcile differences in data by sharing strength test results from all the groups, and then having groups “talk in their houses” to further analyze findings. (7:56)
  • The variation in results prompts students to review their testing procedure and subsequently throw out some of the data, “because it’s not treated equally.” (9:34)

Students apply their knowledge of balance, forces, and civil engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own bridges.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Bridge / Grade 2 / Derry, NH
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L4

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way students move through the steps of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) in Lesson 4?

Steve’s students are responsible for knowing the steps of the EDP, and pacing themselves as they proceed through the steps.

  • Steve gives each group of students the entire EDP packet in a green folder and tells them, “Keep them in the order that they’re in. They will help guide you.” (2:01)
  • Steve provides time checks to help his students stay on track, but does not tell them what to do or how long to spend on each step. (3:42)
  • When teams are ready, they independently check in with Steve to get their plans approved before creating their bridges. (4:49)

What evidence do you see that Steve has created community of learners in his class that share and build upon each other’s ideas?

The culture Steve has cultivated downplays individual achievement and reinforces the value of collaborative work.

  • When thinking about one design to plan in detail, one student asks his peers, “What do we all agree on?” (3:52)
  • Before starting the second day of designing bridges, Steve has the whole group reflect on the process and share their successes and failures. (5:59)
  • Steve calls all the groups together and asks, “What is our weakest score right now?” which reinforces the idea that the whole class is working together. (9:00)
Designing a Bridge (1) / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L4 Part 1

Reflection Questions

How do you see Ann guiding students through each step of the Engineering Design Process in this lesson?

Ann has the whole class fill out each worksheet one at a time, ensuring students spend time on each step of the Engineering Design Process. 

  • Ann and her students fill in the Ask sheet together. This allows Ann to assess whether students are remembering what they learned in previous lessons, and reviews key content for the whole class. (5:35)
  • Ann has all pairs work on the Imagine sheet at the same time. Student pairs need to come up with at least four designs before they can go on to their Plan sheet. (8:00-9:05)
Designing a Bridge (2) / Grade 2 / Arlington, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

EiE - To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges, L4 Part 2

Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that students are thinking critically about criteria and constraints they’ve identified?

As students are designing, they take it upon themselves to test with the barge and think about ways to place the parts of their bridge to maximize the number of weights it can hold. 

  • A student shares that she thinks they should put their pier in the middle because that’s where the weight will be added. (2:00)
  • Another group decides to make a slight tweak to their bridge in order to be sure the barge can fit underneath. (2:30)

How do you see students using the Improve step of the Engineering Design Process during this part of the lesson?

Though several preliminary bridge designs fail, students work quickly to think about possible improvements, including adding piers or changing the shape of the bridge.

  • One pair’s bridge begins to fail when they only have a few washers in their testing cup. A group member immediately suggests adding a pier. (4:50)
  • Ann is standing by another pair when their bridge begins to fail. While she asks them how they might improve it so it doesn’t collapse, a group member has already started adding a support to the span of the bridge.
  • During her interview, Ann talks about how making improvements or changing an initial design can be difficult for young students, but because the Improve step is presented as an integral part of the design process, children accept it readily. (9:50)